Trip not derailed by terror attacks
Ten years after the first group of Hayesville High School students traveled to Denmark, a small group of students left Hayesville on Tuesday, March 29 to make their own trip. The annual trek has become a tradition for HHS students and this year’s Belgium terrorist scare has not deterred them.
“Our hearts go out to Brussels,” Emily Faggard said. “But we are not letting the terrorists scare us from experiencing a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Payton Walroup feels the same way. “We have been looking forward to this trip for so long,” Waldroup said. “Though the attacks in Brussels are very unfortunate, we can't let them keep us from living our lives and seeing what this incredible world has to offer outside our small town of Hayesville.”
“This is the world we live in now,” Regina Cothren said. “No matter where you travel, there will be a chance of danger, but we all talked about it and decided that being afraid of those things lets terrorists win. We all feel safe traveling to Denmark, as the chances of anything happening in that particular country are slim.”
Teachers Melissa Cheeks and Jim Saltz are accompanying the students on the trip. School superintendent Mark Leek said high school principal Mickey Noe met with the students, parents and chaperones last Friday to discuss whether to go ahead with the trip after the bombings in Belgium.
“They discussed what it means for Europe to be on a Level 4 Terror Alert,” Leek said on Monday. “I know that all were given the opportunity to withdraw from the trip with a refund. To my knowledge, none accepted and are still planning on going.” He said the student could change their minds until they departed on Tuesday. “The foresight of purchasing insurance in case of cancellation or students not going was done and that is how all could be offered a refund,” Leek added. “Mr. Saltz took care of that a while back.”
In addition, Saltz assured the group has taken security measures. “We have taken steps to make sure our trip adheres to the advised precautions issued by the U.S. Department of State,” Saltz said. “All of the students have registered for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program which is a service to allow United States citizens traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the United States Embassy or Consulate. The benefits of enrolling in STEP include:
• Receiving important information from the embassy about safety conditions in the destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans
• Help the embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest or family emergency.
• Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.
Saltz continued, “Our Denmark-bound students and their parents have been informed of potential risks while traveling both domestically and internationally. Exercising particular caution in public places and on mass transit has been emphasized. Being alert and completely aware of your surroundings is a must. Steps to take in the event of an emergency have also been addressed.”
The Denmark program has become a sort of short-term exchange program. Danish students visit the families of Hayesville students each year, then Hayesville students visit their new friends in Denmark. The Hayesville group is excited to rekindle friendships with the Danish friends they met six months ago.
“We all feel safe going to Denmark and know not to trust strangers, be aware of our surroundings and stay together,” Waldroup said. “We are so excited to see our Danish friends and experience their everyday lives.”
Waldroup’s mother, Dawn Kelley, is confident the students will be fine. “I know our students are in good hands with their teachers,” Kelley said. “A parent always worries about their children, but I know God is watching over my girl. The Denmark students that visited were a great pleasure to have and our students have this fabulous opportunity to travel.”
“I am so excited to experience another culture and to see my Danish friends. I cannot wait to share these wonderful memories with some of my very best friends,” Cothren said. “We filled out information with the embassy in Copenhagen. We’ve been told to be cautious everywhere we go, stay in groups and stay away from any suspicious activity while we are there.”
“We’re super stoked to experience the daily lives of our Danish best friends,” Faggard said. “I have missed them so much and cannot wait to see them and to meet their families. I am excited to see the culture change and taste the foods.”
Saltz added. “We hope our students have a great experience in Denmark. They have been looking forward to this journey since the minute the Danish exchange program students left Clay County back in the fall. We are hoping these students have a wonderful, peaceful experience with their Danish exchange students.”